When in the eastern US it's hard to not come across historic places, especially battlefields. I visited some of these battlefields on a class trip to Washington DC in high school, which was many moons ago, so most everything was new to me. I guess back then I wasn't as interested in history as I was having fun with friends. Rick loves history, especially military events, so I had my own tour guide! We had a couple weeks before our workamping gig in NC so we decided to immerse ourselves in history. We were also going to share some of that history with the boys later in the trip.
We started in Harpers Ferry, WV where we stayed at a KOA that was situated on part of the battlefield where John Brown raided the arsenal years before the Civil War started in an effort to arm slaves to start a rebellion. It was interesting to see the union defensive positions within the campground, but that was about all the campground had going for it, in our opinion. The sites were on top of each other, with sewers hook up next to your picnic table and rules were not enforced, nor was management responsive to issues. Part of the park has many full time residents, who feel rules do not pertain to them and parties can go all night long. With a nightly rate in the high $60's to $80's, it again reinforced our feeling that KOA's just aren't our thing and are not worth the price.
The town of Harpers Ferry is actually the the National Park and the park service owns several of the buildings and has museums and period setups in them. Due to COVID some were closed but others were open and were pretty interesting. Historical importance here goes back to the days of Lewis and Clark.
During the course of the Civil War, Harpers Ferry changed hands several time due to it's critical location on the convergence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers with railroads running through the area.
We walked around the rest of the town and found several beautiful homes, a cool hotel up on the bluff that folks are trying to bring back to life and also the home of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
The National Park also includes area surrounding the town of Harpers Ferry were several battles were fought. Bolivar Heights, an area above Harpers Ferry was the site of 5 different engagements throughout the Civil War with other areas being key confederate victories for Stonewall Jackson's confederate troops. It was a beautiful sunny day to drive the area and take a couple walks, which had some amazing views!
We also visited Monocacy and Antietam battlefields while in the area. Both of these battlefields were driving tours through the countryside. Visitor Centers were closed but Antietam had park rangers in a tent out front who were more than happy to answer questions and hand out guides.
Monocacy is a lesser known battlefield and it showed as we were the only ones we saw touring the sites. This battle encompassed several family farms and was the battle that saved Washington, D.C. on July 9, 1864 during the third and final Confederate Invasion of the North.
Our last battlefield in this area was Antietam. In September of 1862, General Robert E. Lee's forces engaged Union Gen. George B. McClellan's union soldiers in what was known as the bloodiest one-day battle of the Civil War. Throughout this driving tour, there were many monuments, Dunker Church which was the focal point of the Union attacks the morning of the battle and the beautifully preserved Burnside Bridge which Union Gen. Burnside finally overtook and pushed Confederate forces back toward Sharpsburg. Sunken Road, also known as Bloody Lane, was the most sobering portion of the tour. To stand where soo many lost their lives and to read the observation..."They were lying in rows like the ties of a railroad, in heaps like cordwood mingled with the splintered and shattered fence rails. Words are inadequate to portray the scene." It really amplified what took place in this unassuming country lane.
There were several other roadside historical markers and areas of interest, but we just ran out of time in the area. We ended our area battlefield tour with a fantastic german sampler dinner for two at Schmankerl Stube in Hagerstown, MD.
Next up, the biggest battle of them all...
West Virginia was not on our radar this year but, again, due to the pandemic, we rerouted ourselves to explore this wild and wonderful state. Most states have different areas to explore and W. VA was no different. There is the coal mine area in the SW part of the state, know as the Hatfield-McCoy Mountains, which we unfortunately didn't have time to dive into and just to the north is the Metro Valley and Mid-Ohio Valley region, which we spent our first few days in the state exploring.
The drive from Kentucky was a short one, but was beautiful drive along 64 and then north on 77 to Rippling Waters Church of God campground. We found this quaint place on Passport America and scored a pull thru, full hook up site for $20 a night. They are known for their chapel by the water, which was beautiful view from our rig. The people there were soo friendly and accomodating. They have a small pool, which was closed due to Covid, a laundry and fishing in the little ponds on the property. The road to the campground is not for the faint at heart, but taking it slow around the sharp corners got us there unscathed. It is a narrow country road and really only traveled by the locals to and from their homes.
We used this location as our base camp to explore Charleston, the capitol of WV and surrounding areas. We spent a day in Charleston and were fortunate enough to get into the West Virginia State Museum, which is a must do when in the area. It was free and definitely rivaled museums we have paid for. They had beautiful champion quilts displayed in the entry area and the museum chronicled the history of WV. The timeline was well done and reminded us of the Streets of Old Milwaukee in the Milwaukee Museum back home.
Unfortunately the Capitol was closed to visitors and there were working on the gold dome so the pictures aren't the best but still beautiful grounds and monuments on the campus.
We had lunch at Adelphia Sports Bar & Grille in downtown Charleston that is known for their fried feta. Of course we had to try it....AHHHMMMAAAZING!
We then went to check out the Capitol Market which is a permanent market in the restored train depot. It expands in the summer and fall to the outdoors to include a farmers market as well. Such beautiful fall flowers and produce everywhere!
We took a day to head north to Parkersburg and explore Blannerhassett Island Historical State Park and Museum. This state park is an island out in the Ohio River. We took the steamwheeler ride to the island and then were able to explore the grounds by horse drawn carriage ride and then took a guided tour of the mansion. Such an interesting backstory to the Blannerhassetts from them being second cousins, to hosting many dignitaries to the conspiracy plan with Aaron Burr that eventually had them flee their beautiful estate on the island when the scheme collapsed. The museum on the main land in Parkersburg did a good job of representing the history of the area, which is rich in the oil and gas industry.
We then relocated to the middle of the state and set up camp at Summersville Lake Retreat. This RV park is located high above Summersville Lake, which is the largest lake in WV. Is is a COE lake, with high rocky cliffs and the largest manmade rock dam in the US. Due to Covid, the park was peacefully quiet during the week and we just had one night neighbors passing through. Our site faced the woods, which provided a beautiful backdrop to our stay and behind us was the lake's lighthouse, high on the hill.
This location gave us the ability to visit some of what WV is best known for...it's rivers and the largest man made steel bridge in the western hemisphere. We spent a day exploring the New River Gorge area, marveling at the majesty of the bridge and the beauty of the river. The National Park Service did a great job with the overlook viewing platform near the bridge, with its 178 steps. The bridge views and those up river were soo beautiful! The bridge is a major road that now connects the two sides of the gorge that, prior to the bridge being built in 1977, travelers had to wind down through the gorge to get to the other side over a narrow bridge that took 45 minutes. We took that route and it was very narrow and at times a bit nerve wracking in a big dually truck! There was even a point where we needed to stop and back up a bit to get around a corner. Once at the bottom of the gorge, we spent some time standing on the old bridge, watching kayakers go over some of the world famous rapids.
Our time here wrapped up quickly and we were on to our next stop to visit the now famous secret bunker under the west annex of the beautiful Greenbrier hotel. We stayed across the border at Glen Maury City Park for the weekend and we can honestly say this was one of our least favorite stays. It was party central for the locals, a true hootenanny with banjos going all night in the site next to us and a large birthday party across the street trying to drown them out with their own blaring music. There are really no rules at this park and we ended up having the AC fan on all night long to try and get some sleep. The set up there was just a large field with a power box that could accommodate 6 30amp hookups and a water bib that was used by numerous people who just added splitter after splitter. There were no sites per say, but just where you could find room and could reach electric. Thank goodness we used our Passport America and got half off the site at $17 a night. Regardless, we would never stay here again on a weekend and maybe during the week for one night if needed. We actually were able to get into a larger spot, if you can believe that by the picture. What you can't see is that there is a Class C to our left, just out of the picture frame.
The park was located in a cute little patriotic town, Buena Vista, VA, who proudly displayed their flags and honored their veterans.
Our visit to The Greenbrier hotel was an interesting one, to see the 112,544 sq ft bunker that was built for Congress in the 50's, and remained a closely held secret for over 30 years. The bunker was carved deep into the mountainside as a Cold War emergency shelter and the west wing of the hotel was built atop it to "hide" what they were really building at the time. Due to some of the bunker area still being used by a data storage company for some of the Top Fortune 500 companies, we were unable to take pictures anywhere and you could not take anything with you into the bunker area, including any electronics or purses. So, in lieu of pictures of the hotel or bunker, here are pictures of postcards they gave us after the tour and a stock picture of the hotel.
Well that wraps up our tour of West Virginia...most of it. Did you ever realize how oddly shaped WV really is? We are now off to the tiny little piece in the waaaayyyy upper east that really looks like it should be a piece of VA or MD.
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Upon leaving Cincinnati, we had a short drive south on I-75 to Lexington, KY. We were excited to explore this area of KY since we had never been east of Louisville. Being the Labor Day holiday weekend, we were happy to score one of the last sites at the Kentucky Horse Park campground. Several people we know have stayed here and had good things to say about it. It is a huge park, 4 half circles, with 260 sites. They also have a seperate area for tents and yet another area for electric only in a field.
We arrived just after noon on Friday and were surprised to see that most of the sites were already full with weekend warriors. Our site was on one of the outer loops and we wiggled our way into the site. The sites are spacious but the asphalt rv pads are narrow without aprons so unfortunately we had to drive over the soft grass a bit to get into the site. Each site has electric and water and the park has wifi, but with 260 sites occupied, it was pretty slow. The pool was closed but the park did have activities all through the weekend, including a decorated golf cart parade and families were out and about walking and biking. The campground is well kept with lots to do, 2 laundry rooms, 2 dump stations and a great store that has alot of groceries, sundries you night have forgotten and souvenirs. We stayed through the weekend until Wednesday and it was fun to watch just about everyone leave Monday. The dump station lines were long but orderly and soon it was just us and a handful of other campers enjoying the peace and quiet. I will say, even though it was a holiday weekend and the park was full, everything quieted down around 10pm. It could have been that the park is patrolled by the mounted police from the horse park.
We took advantage of a special the KY Horse Park was having that Friday and bought our tickets for the park at the campground, which allowed us to visit and park for two days for only $6 each! It is usually $20 per person plus parking. Albeit, we weren't able to go into some of the barns but we did have a chance to see some dressage competition, a movie about the park and the surrounding horse farms, the museum and a chance to meet some of the past Kentucky Derby winners who are now retired and living a life of leisure at the park.
We even got to see a horse show that introduced some of the horses that live at the park.
Throughout the park there were memorials for other championship horses including Staff Sergeant Reckless, Man O War and several of his descendants.
We also went for a drive in the countryside to see some of the horse farms in the area. It truly is the rolling hills of Kentucky and they treasure their horses.
Since we were in the area, we had to go check out the Ark Encounter. We were amazed by the sheer size of it and enjoyed taking the day to explore the Ark and the beautiful grounds and small zoo.
This stop was another one that we quickly cobbled together after having to change our original plans due to the pandemic. We were pleasantly surprised with the area and are excited to explore a new state next.
Once we left scout camp, we headed to SE WI to spend quality time with family, take care of Dr appts, including a colonoscopy and then relax. Little did we know that we would be fortunate to be in town when Rick's dad had a medical emergency and was rushed to the hospital, only to have surgery on a brain bleed the following day. He is doing much better and is in rehab, getting stronger every day, to return home soon. It was great to see everyone again, albeit the circumstances were not what we wanted and the whole Covd thing made it much more stressful since we were unable to see him or be there speaking to the Dr's. Rick's mom was a trooper though, being the only one who could be with him and we were able to speak to the Dr and his dad via phone, from the hospital grounds below.
We also were able to spend time with my family as well with a family get together. We had a wonderful time with great food and drink, laughs and as always, a very contentious washer box tournament $$$. A complete surprise to me since it has been years since I played but the winners were...yup, my brother and I! Wohoo! Winner, winner, chicken dinner!!! We also had several contestants instantly win a game by getting a washer on the rim of the box and we had to take the traditional pictures.
Our oldest son works at a boat/sales and service business and was able to reserve the company "test drive" pontoon boat for a day and we went out on the lake near our old home for a relaxing cruise. What a beautiful day for it!
After saying our goodbye's, we headed south to get some work done on our RV at the Grand Design Service Center. Again we cannot say enough wonderful things about our manufacturer! They go above and beyond to earn customers for life. We arrived at their campsites on a Monday and were up early Tuesday to have the RV ready to go in to the shop at 6am. We had a couple things for them to look at and they also do a once over as well to check the rig out. They did find an issue that they wanted to address so we spent a little over a week in the Elkhart area while our coach was being worked on.
Being smack dab in the middle of Amish Country we had to check it all out, even if we have been here before. That included a visit to the Menno-Hof museum in Shipshewana, an Amish dinner at the Essenhaus, a buggy ride through the countryside and perusing several stores to purchase Amish made goodies. We even found several "quilt" flower gardens on our drive around the area. Soo pretty!!!
We had another day to burn while our rig was at Grand Design so we started off with a very interesting visit to Bontragers RV Surplus. They have several buildings that have just about every piece you would need for your RV! After an hour and 93 degree temps with 85% humidity, we threw in the towel and got back into a nice cool truck. From there we headed on over to one of our most favorite food haunts in the area, Flippin Cow. This place has such great burgers and a really cool vibe that we make a point to stop every time we are in the area! We even went back again before we left town, with our dear friends, the Golden's, who were also having work done at MORryde.
From there we headed to Costco to pick up a couple items and then went to a place we have not been for what seems like years...A Movie Theater!!! EEEKKK!!!! Well to say that we felt safe is an understatement! Cinemark definitely has gone the distance to ensure everything is thought of to keep the customers and staff safe. Our show was at 4pm and we were the only ones there! We had the movie theater all to ourselves. We saw Unhinged and let me just say that I will never look at Russell Crowe the same way ever again!!! It took awhile for our heart rates to come back down after that one! When we came out into the parking lot, there were several more folks there and the staff seemed sincerely happy to be back at work.
It just so happened that our extra time in Elkhart caused us to have to cancel our reservation at Maumee Bay State Park on Lake Erie. It looked like a really nice park on the lake and had great reviews but alas...RV'ing plans are usually made in jello. This wasn't the only change we needed to make. Due to the whole Covid fiasco and NE states having strict quarantine guidelines, we had to cancel our plans to go to PA and NY, including Niagra Falls. Oh well, the Canada border was closed as well, so we will make that trek once it is all open again. It was quite interesting when canceling reservations as to the different policies in place. Some were just a nominal cancellation charge, another had a $25 cxl fee but would be used as a credit on a future stay within a year and then there was yet another that would not refund any deposit and laughed when I asked if the 1 night deposit could be a credit a later date. Yup that one was in NY! Grrrr. Oh well, it is what it is. Lots of wiggly jello plans that change. We quickly examined our options and decided to explore West Virginia next. I must say though that we have been quite lucky, as I have seen other folks have their travel plans completely upended.
Our next stop was a couple nights just outside of Cincinnati at Winton Woods County Park. What a gem! Fantastic county park with camping, a petting zoo, boat rentals and soo much more to offer! We were also blessed to have our friends, The Golden's, stay for a night on their way to TN. From here we said our "See You Again's" and hope to meet back up with them next summer.
We also were able to snag some Skyline Chili. Oh yumm!! For those that have not experienced it's yumminess, Cincinnati chili has a very distinct taste. It is a meaty chili with cinnamon and allspice. You can then add beans if you'd like and their most popular is the three way which is on top of spaghetti with a mound of cheddar cheese on top.
The social calendar continued to hum along as we met up with more friends. Good friends, good food!!! Right up our alley!
We met up with Ginger who we met way back in 2018 when we did a workamping stint at their private grass airstrip in Hanover, IN. Unfortunately Rich wasn't able to join us since he was on call for work, but hopefully next time! We met Ginger at the Incline Public House on historic Price Hill in south Cincinnati. The food was good, the company was even better and the views of downtown Cincinnati were amazing!
The next day we met up with Terri and Mike, friends we met at the 2018 National Grand Design Rally. We had a great lunch at LaRosa's Pizzeria. Since there was no rally this year in Elkhart we brought them some yummy Amish goodies and they brought us some delicious bounty from their garden and Mike made us a beautiful 5th Wheel RV charcuterie/cutting board. Thank you both!!!
Our busy, social time in Cincinnati quickly came to an end and we needed to pack up and head down the road to our Labor Day weekend destination. Until next time...
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